Page 1 of 1 [ 10 posts ] 

ELLCIM
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 22 Nov 2005
Gender: Male
Posts: 513
Location: Canada

10 May 2006, 6:04 pm

Today I was at work, which consists of bussing tables in a cafe that is part of a larger established store. I've been doing this job for about 13 months and I have a good rapport with the customers. As a university business/admin student, and as a worker here, I have some concept of what the customer's needs and wants are. and I make every effort to maintain the good, hospitable atmosphere that the cafe has. Throughout my career I have attempted at every point to put myself in the customer's shoes and view the cafe from their point of view, rather than merely picking up plates and putting them in a bin.

One ongoing issue we have had there is female employees from other departments in the store coming into the cafe, in uniform, and meeting up with their boyfriend on a break. Nothing wrong with that. But often they start holding hand or each other in some other fashion, then the kissing starts. This is an unwelcome sight for some customers. During peak periods, we can have as many as 200 customers - 130 inside, and an additional 40 (approx.) on the patio. Many of them are elderly, old-school Europeans that enjoy our casual but traditional atmosphere. We also get a lot of families with young children.

A number of us in the cafe have kept an increasingly close watch on employees from other departments. One girl in particular has a boyfriend who is also the brother of another female employee in the store. The boyfriend does not work at the store. I will refer to the girl as Maria, and her boyfriend's sister as Sara (both names changed to protect identity). One of my coworkers spoke with Sara about her brother and Maria awhile back, but it seems it didn't change. I've seen the two of them kissing each other, or embracing each other in highly inappropriate ways for public view. All of them, including myself, are around 20-22 years of age. The three of them are all recent immigrants from South America, while I'm a whitebred Canadian. My coworker, who I will refer to as Luisa, previously went as far as to say "we don't do that in this country" (Latin Americans do tend to be more physically expressive, as a generalization; other employees that have partaken in this behaviour have been of the same origin, curiously - but this is just a side point and I don't want to see ANYONE accusing me of being racist, because I have good friends that are Latino too).

Today at the peak of lunchtime, Maria and her boyfriend were sitting on the patio. Maria was in uniform, but at first they were just sitting there talking, so I didn't worry about it, although I kept an eye on them from a distance. There were maybe two dozen customers out there, plus the head of human resources who was having lunch. Once they were leaned in close to each other and were holding each other's arms, I stepped in, because it was guaranteed to be kissing very quickly. All I did was politely remind Maria that they are in the presence of customers. I walked away immediately, but a minute or so later I went back outside to clean more tables. The HR guy didn't seem to have noticed the incident from his vantage point, as he was at the other side of the patio and when he walked by me a few minutes later he merely made a comment about the tea he was drinking.

Maria was grossly offended by what I had said, blabbering in her Spanish accent that "it's none of my business" and so forth. I raised my voice and stated that she is an employee in uniform, and that they customers do not want to see what they're up to, in light of customer complaints. I spoke loud enough that some customers could hear me. I also pointed out that the HR head was right nearby (he could fire her on the spot for all I care, but that's out of my jurisdiction).

In light of what happened, I spoke to Sara half an hour or so later on in order to let her know that there had been an incident involving her brother and his girlfriend, and I specifically stated that while I do not personally have a problem with what they do in front of customers when she is in uniform, the customers do not like it and I have a responsibility to maintain a welcoming, hospitable atmosphere - that is my job. I also stated that I was only telling her this in case her brother complained to her later on.

Either because Sara still has some difficulty understanding English, or because she decided to be a jerk, she went and told Maria that I told her to tell Maria not to be doing what she is doing in front of the customers. So, the two of them confronted me right in the cafe in front of a half dozen or so customers. Maria was blabbering about how it's not my business and that Sara is her friend and not her mother. She kept blabbering and making comments about me and I just tuned her out eventually.

From there I filled out an employee report and spoke with the manager. He said that he had already spoken to her about her behaviour earlier (I had spoken to the manager earlier), and he was disappointed to hear that there had been additional harassment. So now it's in his field, and I'm curious to find out if there will be disciplinary action against her.

Tomorrow could be interesting. I just hope there isn't further harassment from any of the three parties involved. Fortunately I have a number of coworkers on side already, including Luisa, the one that spoke to Sara previously. Had Luisa been there today, I would've asked her to handle it, because she is older and is someone you don't dare mess with. Management there is usually too apathetic to deal with these kinds of situations, so it is left to lower-level workers like myself who actually interact with customers and don't sit in an office to troubleshoot such issues.



anandamide
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 23 Feb 2006
Age: 55
Gender: Female
Posts: 735

10 May 2006, 6:54 pm

Ellcim, do you have a personal code of conduct in your workplace? Many work places have a list of rules that are given to employees when they start the job. It seems to me that if such a code of conduct existed in your workplace it would take the onus off you from being seen as the monitor and therefore the bad person in this situation.



ELLCIM
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 22 Nov 2005
Gender: Male
Posts: 513
Location: Canada

10 May 2006, 7:13 pm

anandamide wrote:
Ellcim, do you have a personal code of conduct in your workplace? Many work places have a list of rules that are given to employees when they start the job. It seems to me that if such a code of conduct existed in your workplace it would take the onus off you from being seen as the monitor and therefore the bad person in this situation.


There is a code of conduct, but I am the sole full-time employee responsible for the patio (it falls to other part-time employees when I'm not on duty). Other employees are not supposed to be there while in uniform, and I also have the responsibilities of emptying garbage cans and some maintenance, which includes the garden. If something happens inside then one can easily be caught by a manager or department head, but once someone is on the patio it's all up to me. There was that HR guy but he doesn't do anything, not to mention he was on lunch break.



anandamide
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 23 Feb 2006
Age: 55
Gender: Female
Posts: 735

10 May 2006, 7:23 pm

Well it sounds like their behavior is inappropriate for a workplace environment. And it sounds like you are doing your job in a competent way.



Paula
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 15 Feb 2005
Age: 58
Gender: Female
Posts: 762
Location: San Diego Calif

10 May 2006, 9:34 pm

I think in the future just have your manager handle it. You were correct in what you did, you did the right thing. But it's better that your manager deal with this, so that you'll be left alone.



ELLCIM
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 22 Nov 2005
Gender: Male
Posts: 513
Location: Canada

11 May 2006, 3:45 pm

Paula wrote:
I think in the future just have your manager handle it. You were correct in what you did, you did the right thing. But it's better that your manager deal with this, so that you'll be left alone.


The problem that exists, though, is that I am the only employee that is responsible for the patio - managers don't go out there. Plus, this was at around 1 PM, which is a very bad time to go paging a manager to take care of a situation like this. This is a large operation with two managers on duty at that time of day, and the place is packed with customers. The managers have business calls, they're speaking with customers or suppliers, or they're assisting in other departments. I have been advised on a number of occasions to not page a manager to the cafe department at that time of day because they are simply too busy.

Oddly enough, I spoke with another coworker this morning that said he did the same thing with another couple that were necking inside the store last summer. The girl in this case was a store employee in full uniform and I remember seeing her and her boyfriend in there making out on several occasions. The two of them both gave my coworker an attitude, and when the guy threatened to complain to management, my coworker told him to "go ahead" because management wouldn't put up with them.



wobbegong
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 19 Apr 2006
Gender: Female
Posts: 716

11 May 2006, 9:09 pm

ELLCIM

I think you should ask your supervisor what you should be doing in this situation, ask during a quiet time, not necessarily at lunchtime. You could also consider keeping a log of their inappropriate behaviour - when it happens, how many customers there are, and if any customers complain. It might be best to ignore them unless you do get a customer complaint directly. Personally I can't stand kissing in public - I don't care who is doing it, but I wouldn't complain about it and I wouldn't expect people to get the sack over it. I might start avoiding the cafeteria - this is probably your only lever to get action.

And if it was me doing your job, I'd be considering accidentally spilling a bucket of water on them, and I'd do my job very dilligently at their table so they couldn't think they have any privacy. It's a pity there isn't a cafeteria or lunch room for employees only.

Last of all - in the scheme of important problems in the world - is this one really important? - are there really customer complaints? - is it worth getting anyone fired over it? Are customer numbers down because of it? You need to make sure your actions are balanced - try not to go overboard over something fairly small even if you are right. Maybe when you look at them you could tell yourself that nobody else cares - the HR guy doesn't care, your managers don't care so you shouldn't worry either. Keeping a log book should help you feel like you're doing the right thing.



ELLCIM
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 22 Nov 2005
Gender: Male
Posts: 513
Location: Canada

13 May 2006, 5:16 pm

wobbegong wrote:
And if it was me doing your job, I'd be considering accidentally spilling a bucket of water on them, and I'd do my job very dilligently at their table so they couldn't think they have any privacy. It's a pity there isn't a cafeteria or lunch room for employees only.


There is a lunch room for employees only. I didn't even bring up the fact that she is supposed to be in the lunch room if she is in uniform and not working. In fact she was putting on her uniform at her table in front of the customers. If I wanted to get really nasty I would've also talked to her about that, but I pick my battles.

wobbegong wrote:
Last of all - in the scheme of important problems in the world - is this one really important?


Oh, this is gold.

wobbegong wrote:
are there really customer complaints? - is it worth getting anyone fired over it? Are customer numbers down because of it? You need to make sure your actions are balanced - try not to go overboard over something fairly small even if you are right. Maybe when you look at them you could tell yourself that nobody else cares - the HR guy doesn't care, your managers don't care so you shouldn't worry either. Keeping a log book should help you feel like you're doing the right thing.


I have never had customer complaints directly to me about this issue, although I do not know if other employees get complaints or what gets put into the comments box - so it is still possible.

That's not the point though. For one thing, it sets a very bad example both to other employees, and also to the public. When a staff member in full uniform is seen doing such a thing with a significant other, it tarnishes our image as a welcoming place for all ages. We are not a strip club or even a bar - we are not licenced to even serve alcohol. We get a lot of young families, as I said before. Young children do not need to see such behaviour. It is highly unprofessional.

Furthermore, if one person is doing that stuff and we don't stop it, then soon we have 12 employees doing it, and then the risks of turning away customers grows exponentially. It is far better to stop the behaviour in the early stages before it becomes a disease integrated into the company culture.

We can't police our customers who may do that (although I've never seen customers doing anything more than holding hands), but we can police our own staff. It is highly impolite to our paying customers to do such things in their presence, even if they are not going to complain. Some people certainly do not care one way or the other. But in a highly competitive marketplace in a large city with many other places to eat nearby, we can't take that chance. In all my years going to restaurants, cafes, coffee shops and the like, I have never seen employees in uniform kissing or suggestively embracing other people. Not even at McDonalds.



Aeriel
Snowy Owl
Snowy Owl

User avatar

Joined: 6 May 2006
Gender: Female
Posts: 140
Location: Innsmouth, MA

14 May 2006, 8:09 pm

Hi ELLCIM, you are making me feel better about my workplace!

Seriously, I think you left out an important bit of information although you wrote at length about the problem. You stated you are responsible for "the patio"; but are you also responsible for monitoring and correcting the behavior of co-workers? Can you hire and fire?

If the answer to those questions is no, I would back off after reporting the problem, and let the manager or supervisor take whatever steps are necessary to correct the behavior. If the situation is acceptable to management as is, then you have done your job and have no further responsibility in the matter.

If the answer is yes, warn the offending employees according to the policy of your company; and fire them if they fail to comply with the rules.

Personally I agree with you that the sort of thing you describe is unacceptable, and I certainly wouldn't want to patronize a business where uniformed employees are publicly exchanging bodily fluids. Yuck!!



lae
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 13 May 2006
Gender: Female
Posts: 786

15 May 2006, 11:03 pm

Sounds like you've done all you can about the problem. If the manager knows about it and has'nt at least sent a memo out to all emloyees about it, he/she must not care. Now, if they have delegated the authority to you to discipline, hire, and fire, etc. then that could be different. It sounds like an uncomfortable situation.



cron